Archive | July, 2011

Healthy Nibbles: 25 July 2011 Edition

31 Jul

From our eyes to yours … here’s what’s up in health and nutrition news for the week of July 25th, 2011:

As anyone who conducts research involving human participants knows, there is a vast array of paperwork that comes part in parcel with the process. Though the premise behind this mass tree killing is primarily the protection of participants and the encouragement of verifiable science, there has been growing concern that the associated red tape is actually stifling the progress of the research itself. In the hopes of minimizing this administrative burden, the US federal government is proposing various changes to the existing process. Such changes will include centralized ethics boards for multi-site trials and proportionate review for qualitative studies. Sounds great on paper, but the Debbie-downer side of me cautions to wait and see how it pans out in real-life. [NY Times]

Though the token toys of McDonalds’ Happy Meals are here to stay, apple slices will be replacing one half the portion of fries. Acknowledging that this pending change marks a step in the right direction, health advocates are still concerned it represents a band-aid solution in the battle against childhood obesity. And given McDonalds’ notoriously aggressive child-centric ad campaigns, there is particular concern that the addition of apple slices will just mask the Happy Meal’s still sub-par nutritional content. Err … since when did McDonalds even START selling apple slices? From what I could see on TV, I just thought the McRib was back. [TIME Healthland]

What harm can come from a little white lie, right? Okay, that’s up for debate. However, a recent study by researchers from Penn State suggests that modifying standard, child-friendly recipes to incorporate a variety of pureed vegetables can help to increase preschoolers’ daily vegetable intake and decrease their total daily caloric intake. What’s more, the tots still gave the revised meals two (tiny) thumbs up for taste. Now, if only McDonalds could find a way to do something similar with their happy meals (see previous link). [Science Daily]

According to a Dutch study, cranberries fall short compared to their antibiotic counterparts when it comes to preventing recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs). However, in spite of these feeble findings in favour of cranberries, additional results from this study are giving some health care practitioners cause to reconsider their potential health benefit; in particular, their improved resilience to the development of antibiotic resistance. Proof positive that there is merit in applying some innovative thinking and critical re-evaluating to traditional science. [TIME Healthland]

Is it me or has gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease (CD) really stolen the spotlight as of late? Not to diminish the experience of sufferers or to downplay the necessity of awareness, but heightened advocacy for CD is evidenced by the growing number of gluten-free food products and eateries. In support of awareness, researchers from Sweden and South Africa have just published the first global estimates of CD and its associated mortality. When it comes to health, every little bit of information helps so here’s to many more scientific advances! [Science Daily]

Research Participants Needed: Project Mint Tea

29 Jul

Pic courtesy of J.Mulik

After much toil and trouble, we’re finally on our way with participant recruitment 🙂 (happy claps)!! As anyone who has ever conducted studies with human participants knows, this is a MAJOR study milestone. For me, it’s the participant interaction of clinical trials that is often the most fun and rewarding … especially following the endless stream of preparatory paperwork that comes from dealing with grant applications, REB submissions, and protocol development.

As such, I would like to take this opportunity to dote on our baby (err… I mean our study), affectionately dubbed “Project Mint Tea.”

This study is the culmination of a joint effort from the University of Guelph’s departments of plant agriculture and human health and nutritional sciences. As well, it builds on several years’ worth of previous pre-clinical research in both cell culture and animal models. It’s no wonder we’re so excited about these next steps!

If you or anyone else you know might be interested in participating, we would love to hear from you!  For study recruitment information, simply click on the “Mint Tea Study” link on the HNRU website. For more information about the scientific rationale behind the study, check out this featured article on the ‘At Guelph’ website. And as always, if you’d prefer a more personal touch, you’re more than welcome to just cold contact us directly at: teastudy@uoguelph.ca or 519-824-4120 ext. 56314.

We can’t wait to hear from you!

5 Tips for Easy Peasy Physical Activity

27 Jul

Diet and physical activity go hand in hand as components of a healthy lifestyle. But setting aside time to engage in physical activity can sometimes be a bigger challenge than actually doing it. The trick to making it part of your day-to-day routine is to stop thinking about it in the conventional sense (meaning fancy equipment and complex routines).

Below is a list of suggestions of how to make physical activity much more manageable as a daily routine. Granted, none of them alone will be enough to have you rocking an elite athlete’s physique, but that’s not the point. The point is to JUST MOVE – a little bit, everyday.

Pic courtesy of J.Mulik

(1) Get involved – There’s nothing like getting involved with something to make you feel personally invested in it. The more you put in the more you stand to get out. Gardening is a great way to be active AND to take greater control of what you eat. What’s more, there’s a lot of pride to be had in being able to directly contribute to the meal on your plate – especially since you’ll know more than anyone how much you put into getting it there.

(2) Incorporate inconveniences – We’ve all heard these before; take the stairs instead of the elevator, park far from the mall entrance, get off the subway one stop earlier and walk. They represent a collection of teeny tiny choices that we can all make to help get us moving. We may not be able to afford the time and money for an expensive gym membership or a personal trainer, but we can all afford to make small choices like these, every day.

(3) Tackle your ‘to do’ list – We’ve all got them. Those pesky items on our to do list that NEVER seem to get done. And chances are, if your list is anything like mine, there’s a reason they never get crossed off – there’s probably a lot of grunt work involved. The reality is that manual labor is a really simple way to be active. Plus it has the added bonus of being super easy on the wallet. So get up and take down those inappropriately-out-of-season Christmas lights. Sift through your bulging closet to organize your clothes. Not only will you dodge being sedentary, you’ll be on your way to minimizing that list … finally.

(4) Make a game of it – From thought provoking puzzles to competitive sports, games are a familiar part of life. With an open mind and a whimsical attitude, we can make a game out of virtually anything, including physical activity. Try doing 5 push ups every time you forget something in the house and have to go back for it. Hide the remote. Get down and dirty playing outside. Whatever you do, just make a habit of doing it often. Usually, the most fun games are also the ones that somehow get your blood pumping.

(5) Move with purpose – When it gets hard to make time for your yoga class, lunch break walk, or ballroom dancing lesson, focus your efforts on quality rather than quantity. While participating in your favourite activity, move with purpose. Stretch further, dance more passionately, and walk with more spring in your step. Challenge yourself and push your limits. Most of all, just enjoy it!

Healthy Nibbles: 18 July 2011 Edition

24 Jul

From our eyes to yours … here’s what’s up in health and nutrition news for the week of July 18th, 2011:

Canadians are generally pretty quick to point out the many factors that distinguish us from our American counterparts. Now, we can add soup to that list – Campbell’s Select Harvest to be exact. Due to diminished sales, Campbell’s American division will be increasing the sodium content of this particular line. Though their commitment to offering low-sodium options is unwavering, they just won’t be as “solely focused on sodium reduction.” Really America? REALLY? I wonder what Michelle Obama thinks of this (see next link). [Globe & Mail]

On behalf of America’s little people, Michelle Obama’s battle against childhood obesity is endeavouring to tackle food deserts. That’s deserts, not desserts (as in an area devoid of healthy, affordable food, not a yummy after dinner treat). With help from Obama’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative, a collection of major American retailers aims to make healthier foods more accessible. Let’s just hope that this revamping doesn’t include much of Campbell’s new sodium-added soups (see previous link) because, well, that would just be counter-productive, non? [NY Times]

Blanket public health policies beware! Researchers at University College Dublin are set to launch a massive nutrigenomics initiative, dubbed the Food4Me study, to investigate the feasibility and effectiveness of personalized diets. When it comes to improving health, because different people respond differently to various nutrients, diets customized to an individual’s specific genetic make up could prove advantageous over the more generic public health policy. Either that, or they’ll just prove WAY more expensive (fingers crossed it’s the former and not the latter). [Science Daily]

Perhaps variety isn’t quite the spice of life you’re looking for … especially when it comes to losing weight. In fact, according to a study by researchers at the University of Buffalo, too much variety may in fact be adding more to your typical caloric intake. In this case, perhaps too much of something may not be such a bad thing after all. [TIME Healthland]

Hi, my name is Marisa and I’m a … err, food addict? Recent research out of Yale University suggests that, much like alcoholism or drug dependency, people can exhibit a compulsive pattern of food consumption. What’s more, ‘food addicts’ share a common clinical profile, including increased impulsivity and reactivity to palatable foods. Although the results of this study should be interpreted with caution, I’m thinking that given the current obesity epidemic, psychometrics is looking like a MUCH more lucrative career path all of a sudden. [Science Daily]

Non-expert? Not an Issue! – Coping with Imposter Syndrome

20 Jul

Pic courtesy of J.Mulik

As a grad student, one of hardest things that I’ve had to wrestle with has been ‘imposter syndrome‘ – that anxiety provoking sense that sooner or later someone will realize I’m hopelessly incompetent and, in fact, unworthy of higher education.

What makes it even worse is that as a grad student, people ALWAYS assume that you know more than you actually do. Sure, it sounds totally reasonable that a nutrition student should know what kinds of things to eat and what to avoid. But seriously, I feel far more expert about Jersey Shore than I do about nutrition (please don’t judge me).  Heck, I still sometimes try to rationalize nachos as being a well-balanced meal seeing as they have something from each of the four major food groups.

Needless to say, feeling overwhelmingly NON-expert does absolutely nothing to curb imposter syndrome. Although various coping strategies have been suggested, such as accurate self-assessment skills and seeking out others to share experiences (because evidently, almost everyone at some point feels the exact same way), I’ve found them to be relatively small comforts when I’m sweating profusely because I’m feeling especially imposter-esque (gross, I know).

That being said, one thing that I have found to be particularly effective has been the discovery that grad school isn’t just about learning more (though I certainly hope I am), but also about learning to be less scared about the things you don’t know.

When you’re starting grad school, no one really tells you that it’s okay to not know something. I was often too scared to participate in discussions even when I had something to contribute, never mind to admit when I was completely lost.  And what’s more, neither your expert supervisor nor your uber confident peers will seem to share in your lack of knowledge.

But that is all TOTALLY okay. Knowledge attainment is a process and we all have to start from scratch. Even the most expert scientist can admit that as much as they do know, they certainly don’t know everything. Rather than being afraid about not knowing, we should embrace it as a challenge that needs exploration. And the great thing about grad school is that it gives us the tools to help make the process of figuring things out more effective.

Two of the most salient tidbits of advice I’ve received since being in my program have been to: (1) be unafraid of ambiguity, and (2) accept that my areas of expertise will only grow as I endeavour to tackle the unfamiliar.  Both of these acknowledge that feeling non-expert is totally acceptable.

Eventually, we will all figure out what we need to because our time in grad school has provided us with the tools and resources to do so. There’s absolutely nothing incompetent or imposter-esque about that. In that sense, I’ve come to appreciate how we shouldn’t sweat the unknown (figuratively … and sadly in my case, literally as well).

Cheers to Alison Duncan and Amanda Wright for the words of wisdom.

Healthy Nibbles: 11 July 2011 Edition

17 Jul

From our eyes to yours … here’s what’s up in health and nutrition news for the week of July 11th, 2011:

Nothing says summer like chilling on a patio 🙂 Or like getting eaten alive by mosquitoes 😦 A recent study by French researchers, however, suggests that perhaps the two are more closely related than we might think. Although many questions remain unclear as to the exact mechanism and overall generalizability of this study’s findings, what is obvious is that even mosquitoes enjoy a pint after a long, hot day. [Health Zone]

Food ads for children remain fodder for the ongoing battle between industry food manufacturers and federal public health promoters in the United States. Revisions to existing marketing standards were recently proposed by a collection of various industry representatives to establish a more unified and voluntary front with respect to what kinds of foods are advertised to children. According to federal representatives, emphasizing the advertisement of healthier foods is a small step in the right direction from industry, but it still falls short of regulatory standards. I’m thinking that perhaps a more important issue has been overlooked – the fact that the revised standards are still VOLUNTARY for advertisers. [NY Times]

When juggling the demands of grad school, having readily accessible snacks in my bag is as much a staple as having my laptop (a.k.a. my ENTIRE life). But when it comes to the type of snacks available, juggling between options that are convenient versus healthy can sometimes be a little trickier. To help, registered nutritional counseling practitioner and media spokesperson, Theresa Albert, offers a few suggestions for low-calorie, pre-packaged snacks. [Health Zone]

My dad was born in 1941, which means that he’s technically just a tiny bit older than Canada’s Food Guide (don’t tell him I said that). He’ll be the first to agree that much has changed since then. Apparently, Canada’s Food Guide is no exception. Much like my dad, it’s pretty cool to see where things came from, to appreciate where they are right now. [Globe & Mail]

With farmers markets and pick-your-own fields aplenty, summer is a fabulous time to take advantage of seasonal fruits (MMM berries). Even though we’ve all been taught the importance of getting 7-10 servings of fruits and veggies per day, questions still arise about which fruits are best for specific health conditions, and how to better incorporate them into the diet. Registered dietitian and media food and nutrition authority, Leslie Beck, helps break this information down. [Globe & Mail]